The fever has broken. The president has spoken. The Secretary of State has spoken. The world might not collapse after all. And even if it does, there is one small reason to go on living: Lifetime has announced that its remake of the classic 1988 tearjerker Beaches (directed, lest we forget, by the recently passed and much beloved Garry Marshall), is beginning production this August. And for Bette Midler’s role as CC Bloom, the brassy aspiring singer who lent her name to Edinburgh’s most famous gay bar—and made a star of the young Mayim Bialik, whose rendition of “The Glory of Love” was the single greatest influence on my third grade year, much to the chagrin of those around me—the network has chosen its star: Adele Dazeem!
Oh, excuse me, I meant Idina Menzel! (I’m sorry, but that joke will never stop being funny to me.)
The role of Hillary, the well-brought up young girl-turned-successful-fancy-lawyer-turned-early-victim-of-heart-disease, played in the original by Barbara Hershey, has not yet been cast.
How should we feel about all of this? Honestly, when I sat down to write this, I expected to feel happy. After nothing but wall-to-wall convention coverage and general hysteria, here, finally, was some exciting news, the kind that was geared towards me and my life, my voice. I thought I would feel the way a Trump supporter does when the Donald explains to that person that his or her abject failure in this here world is some Mexican’s fault; that is to say, relieved, elated, and looking for blood. But instead I just feel ambivalent and worried, like a true Democrat.
Because I’m not sure Idina Menzel is the right choice.
It’s not that she’s not a good singer (she is, some well-documented pitch problems aside.) And it’s not that she isn’t Jew-y enough, or doesn’t have a big enough personality to make it seem plausible that she would, as the song goes, cast a big enough shadow for someone to feel cold in. It’s that—how shall I put this?—Idina, for all her fun faces and crazy hair, is a very earnest performer. She means what she says. She cries when she’s supposed to cry. But she lacks the gleefully perverse sense of humor and ribald feistiness—the sheer sense of camp—that permeates Bette Midler’s persona, and makes her performance in the original such an effective treacle cutter (as we say in the business), in this most treacle-heavy of films. (I mean, it’s basically Love Story but about best friends.)
It’s hard to imagine Idina finding the anarchic sense of fun in the big “Otto Titzling” number Bette does in the film’s second half, for example; the kind of number that doesn’t so much provide a needed antidote to the sentimentality of “The Wind Beneath My Wings.” As every piece of art in my grandmother’s basement taught me, nothing is quite so effective as seeing a clown cry. (Grandma liked clowns.)
But you know what? It doesn’t do anyone any good to complain. Idina Menzel may not be the perfect CC Bloom—we already had one of those—but she’s the one we’ve got, and she’ll be good enough. As you may have heard elsewhere this week, just because something isn’t perfect, doesn’t mean it won’t work.
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